The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, published by the Dorothy Project some months back, is my favorite read of the year to date. Bending not just social conventions but explicitly rejecting the realities paraded before her, Carrington crafted stories both chilling and hilarious, written equivalents of her surrealist paintings. The stories have captured the imagination of numerous readers and critics recently, and there are many engaging viewpoints captured about the works including in the introduction to the text by Kathryn Davis and in pieces such as this and this. Quite a few have focused on the treatment of eating or hunger in the works, themes that immediately stood out to me as akin to Carroll's Alice as well as sometimes violent expressions of vulnerability.
Food and drink are related to themes of class, the need for sustenance portrayed as base or animalistic, as in this from "Uncle Sam Carrington:"
"I felt a bit embarrassed. There were no aristocrats in my family. She saw my hesitation and said with the most charming smile, 'My dear child, you must realize that here we deal only with the affairs of the oldest and most noble families of England.'
I had an inspiration, and my face lit up. 'In our dining room at home...'
The horse kicked me hard in the backside. 'Never mention anything as vulgar as food,' he whispered."
The aristocratic ladies leave her, and instruct her to read The Vulgarity of Food while they tame very animated vegetables with whips in the kitchen garden so that they might effect a trade with the young lady of questionable birth.
Food and drink are frequently viewed as the only means available to a needed end just like Alice consumes from vessels marked EAT ME and DRINK ME without regard for what they might contain but as an audacious attempt to navigate a bizarre and unfamiliar world.
"My soul?' replied Virginia. "I sold it a long time ago for a kilo of truffles. Go ask Igname the Boar for it."
And the descriptions of appetite often carry stories of shame along with them, the desires for the forbidden indulged but not confessed. Or needs boldly satisfied.
"She sucked, sucked for long minutes, and her body became enormous, luminous, magnificent. Her feathers shone like snow in the sun, her tailed sparkled with all the colors of the rainbow. She threw back her head and crowed like a cock. Afterwards she hid the corpse in the drawer of a chest."
I want to reread Carroll's Alice work this fall to look beyond food and drink as just imagery of class distinctions in Victorian England, to look into how both Carrington's characters and Alice both accept and reject the realities around them, how they challenge how one's corporeal existence defines one. Also super curious about Carrington herself and her other work.
Highly recommended reads. Both Carroll and Carrington.